Buddy Program gets new director
Catherine Anne Couch, the new executive director of The Buddy Program, said she hopes the Aspen-based nonprofit can help bring an increasingly diverse community together.Couch said she does not plan to make major changes in the program, which pairs children from the Roaring Fork Valley with adult mentors. But she said she hopes to build upon current success and has a passion for using The Buddy Program to improve the community. With 60 to 70 percent of the buddies coming from Latino backgrounds, she said, she hopes the added diversity will help bring people together.
“As we integrate cultures, that will create a stronger community foundation,” Couch said. “It’s a great staff and a great idea. I’m looking forward to integrating it more fully into the community. Aspen has so much to offer.”Her own connection here is strong, though she moved here only one year ago. “I grew up coming to Aspen with my family and visiting my aunt, Mimi Teschner,” she said. “I always thought it would be great to have the opportunity to live in Aspen.”
Her first job here was as a consultant with the Aspen Institute’s Ideas Festival.Before moving to Aspen, Couch spent nearly 10 years working for the International Olympic Committee. Her latest position, from 2002 to 2004, was as the director of corporate sponsorship and Olympic torch relay for the Athens games. She earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Virginia and a master’s in business administration from the University of Texas, Austin. The Buddy Program helps kids who either don’t have both parents nearby or have been referred because of a death in the family, academic struggles, abuse or something else that having a stable companion and guide can help.
“It’s just being a friend for someone who needs a little extra support,” Couch said. Currently, the program has around 200 children paired with big buddies, though more than 40 children are on a waiting list.”I was fortunate enough to have parents who were my mentors,” Couch said. “This program provides a buddy for every kid who needs one.” The organization also offers counseling, scholarship opportunities and 25 activities per year for the buddy pairs to take part in.
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A management plan for the Marolt Open Space guides the city to largely leave it alone, although a feasibility study will be done for a potential bike park on the south side of the property.